The Mariners and Their Playoff Chances

By Blaidd Drwg

There are Mariners fans out there who are still entertaining hopes of getting into the playoffs despite a 50 – 59 (as of August 5th) record and being 7 games back from the 2nd wildcard spot. Why not. The AL is very mediocre this year and the 2 teams that currently possess the wild card spots are sporting .533 and .523 winning percentages, so one good win streak puts they M’s into contention.

The problem here is that the Mariners need to pass 7 teams just to reach the 2nd playoff spot and that is no easy feat with 53 games remaining, although it has been done before. Here is how the M’s remaining schedule breaks down:

15 games vs. teams with a record worse than the M’s – 9 vs. Oakland, 3 vs. Boston and 3 vs. Colorado. They really need to come out of those 15 games with a 10-5 record.

13 games vs. Texas – the Rangers are currently 5 games ahead of the M’s in the standings (and 6 ahead in the loss column) and significantly upgraded their starting pitching, so making the assumption that both teams play at the same level for the rest of the season (let’s just say .500 for the sake of argument), the M’s need to go 9-4 just to pass them in the standings.

7 games vs. Chicago – it is surprising that the White Sox are still in this, just 4.5 games back of the 2nd wild card despite being horrible. This is the team that the M’s first need to pass, but once again, despite being just 2.5 games back of the Pale Hose, the M’s are 4 back in the loss column (how have the M’s managed to play that many more games than the other teams in the league?) It would take a 5-2 record in those 7 games to catch the Sox assuming they both play .500 ball the rest of the way.

3 games vs Baltimore – the O’s are 6 games up on the M’s and just 1 game back of the 2nd wild card. They do have a brutal schedule the rest of the way though – 28 of their remaining 55 games are against teams with better records and that doesn’t count the 14 games against teams that are within 2 games of them in the wildcard race. The M’s probably need a sweep here or at least winning the series and then hope that the O’s split most of the games against the teams that are ahead of the M’s in the wild card race. If the O’s go into freefall or go on a tear, it will pretty much end the Mariners season.

6 games vs Houston – the Astros lead the M’s by 10 games in the division and are 2 up on the first wild card spot. The ‘Stros have been tough to figure out so these games don’t help the M’s other than potentially swapping the Angels and Astros as division leader/1st wild card team. A couple of important series, but the M’s would do far more damage to themselves if they come out of those 6 with a losing record than the Astros would.

6 games vs. LA – They are up 8 on the M’s for the first wild card spot. Same as the Astros – the 2 series against the Angels could do more harm than good to the M’s chances, depending on how they play out.

3 games vs. KC – Same as the LA and Houston series, but just 3 games so it wouldn’t be the end of the world for the M’s as long as they don’t get swept. KC is really good, so there is no guarantee there.

The M’s have no games remaining against the following teams ahead of them in the wild card standing: Toronto (currently in the 2nd wild card spot, but a brutal schedule to end the season), Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Detroit. All of those teams are at least 3 games up on the M’s in the standings and at least 4 up in the loss column.

It is a long road for the M’s to even think about making the playoffs and they are going to need a ton of help.

My prediction: the M’s make a brief run in the last 2 weeks of August and then fall apart, finishing somewhere around 78-84 for the season. McClendon will be looking for a new job but Zdrenzick will be safe for another year.

The Road to the Super Bowl Runs Through…

By Blaidd Drwg

You hear all about home field advantage in the NFL, and there is definitely an advantage to playing at home, in the regular season. Come playoff time, momentum seems to be more important than playing in your front. I think it becomes exaggerated because the #1 and #2 seeds end up sitting around, doing nothing for a week and lose some of their competitive edge. I decided to take a look at just what kind of impact the bye week had on the top 2 seeds since the NFL went to the 8 team playoff in 2002.

#1 Seed

Game Wins Losses
Divisional Playoff 13 9
Conference Championship 9 4
Super Bowl 2 7

 

#2 Seed

Game Wins Losses
Divisional Playoff 15 7
Conference Championship 5 10
Super Bowl 3 2

 

The results are definitely surprising. The #1 seed has won just 59% of the time in the Divisional Playoff game. Considering that is a team that generally has won better than 75% of its games at home during the season, I would have expected better. The #2 seed wins about 68% of it Divisional Playoff games, which seems about right considering that they get the highest remaining seed for that game (usually the 3 or 4 seed). I suspect that the #1 seed ends up getting the tougher team for their matchup since it seems, especially over the last few seasons, that there is at least one Wild Card team who ends up with a better record than a couple of the division winners.

When you get to the Conference Championship game, it gets a bit interesting. There have been 8 times in the 22 instances that #1 and #2 have squared off in that game, with the #1 seed holding a 5-3 advantage in those games. That makes the results look a bit weird against the other seeds:

  #1 Seed #2 Seed
Vs. 1 or 2 seed 5-3 3-5 (On The Road)
Vs. any other seed 4-1 2-5 (At Home)

 

Basically, if you are the #1 seed and you survive the Divisional Playoff game, you really would rather face anyone other than the #2 seed.

Either way, I would almost be willing to bet that you won’t be seeing a Seattle – Denver (this year’s #1 seeds from their respective conferences) Super Bowl matchup. A battle of #1’s has only happened once in the last 10 seasons – in 2009 when Indy and New Orleans squared off.

It All Comes Down to This

By Blaidd Drwg

The playoffs are set, just a few teams jockeying for position.

Yankees and Orioles for the AL East – If the Yankees win, they win the division, so they control their own destiny. If they Orioles win and the Yankees lose, we get a tie breaker on Thursday. If the Orioles lose, the Yankees win the division.

Rangers and A’s for the AL West – man, this became a race all of a sudden. Both teams go into tonight’s game tied. The A’s are on fire, the Rangers are not. It should be a fun one to watch. The winner takes the division; the loser gets the wild card and has to fly cross country to play that game on Friday in NY or Baltimore if the Orioles win tonight.

The NL is set other than the Nats and Reds battling it out for the best record.

The most intriguing story line is Miguel Cabrera and his quest for the Triple Crown. Cabrera leads Mike Trout in BA by .007, Josh Hamilton in HR by 1 and Josh Hamilton in RBI by 11.

No one is going to catch Cabrera in RBI, so he has that one locked up.

For the HR’s, basically it is up to Hamilton. He needs 2 to take the lead and 1 to tie and is facing A’s rookie A.J Griffin. Hamilton has not homered in his last 8 games and has just 1 homer in 32 AB in Oakland this year. Cabrera should know if he has the HR title locked up before his game starts – the A’s/Rangers starts at 12:35 PM PT and the Tigers/Royals starts at 5:10 PM PT. I think I put my money on Cabrera winning this title outright as Hamilton won’t be swinging for the fences as the Rangers need to win this game.

BA is where it gets interesting. Trout faces the M’s and Blake Beavan this afternoon (3:40 PM PT start). Trout is a career 0-8 against Beavan and is just 12-41 at Safeco this season. If Trout manages to pull off a 4-4 afternoon, that would raise his average to .328571. Cabrera currently stands at .330645. Assuming that Trout goes 4-4, all Cabrera needs to do is to get 1 hit. It does not matter how many at bats he has. The only way that Cabrera does not win the title with a 4-4 day by Trout is if he goes 0-4 or worse. An 0-4 day would leave Cabrera at .328526 average, just a hair behind Trout. Cabrera should win this title too.

Regardless how you feel about the Triple Crown categories being over-rated, it is really cool to have something potentially happen that has not happened in 45 years.

 

UPDATE 3:54PM: Simply unbelievable – the A’s sweep the Rangers and take the division. The Nats get the NL best record and Cabrera locks up the HR and RBI titles. Mike Trout was hit by a pitch in his first at bat.

And Down the Stretch They Come…

By Blaidd Drwg

The NL has 4 of its 5 playoff spots finalized, with only the 2nd wild card still remaining. Even then, the Cardinals have a 3 game lead over the Dodgers with 6 games remaining, making it unlikely that the Dodgers will catch the Redbirds.

The AL is a different story – no one has actually clinched a playoff spot and it could be an interesting last week of the season. Going into Friday’s games, the Yankees lead the east by 1, the Tigers lead the central by 2 and the Rangers lead the west by 4. The wild card also has races, with the Orioles 1 game ahead of the A’s for the first spot and the A’s 2 games ahead of the Angels and Rays for the 2nd spot.

Here is how this is going to play out:
East:
Yankees have 6 games left – 3 at Toronto and 3 vs. Boston. They are in the best position to win the division since they play the two worst teams in the division and neither Boston nor Toronto is playing particularly well right now. As much as I know the Red Sox would like to spoil the Yankees playoff chances, I don’t think it will happen. I see the Yankees taking 5 of the 6 to win the division.

Orioles have 6 games left – 3 vs. Boston and 3 at Tampa.
Rays have 6 games left – 3 at Chicago and 3 vs. Baltimore.
The final TB-Baltimore series could really put a monkey wrench in the playoff chances for one of the two teams. Both the O’s and the Rays are hot and they both need to sweep their weekend series. It is entirely possible that both of these teams could make it to the playoffs, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they do.

Central:
Last week, the White Sox had a 3 game lead in the division. This week, they are trailing the Tigers by 2.
The White Sox need to take at least 2 out of three from the Rays (they really need a sweep) and then sweep the Indians in their last series. Why? Well the Tigers benefit from the most favorable remaining schedule of all the contenders – the have 3 at KC and finish with 3 vs. Minnesota. That is going to make it very tough on the Sox.

West:
The Rangers are in the driver’s seat, but by no means have it locked. They play 3 vs. the Angels and 3 at Oakland. Basically if they take 2 out of 3 from the Halos, the Rangers win the division and the Angels go home for the season.

The A’s are playing the Mariners for 3 and then finish with the Rangers. They really need to sweep the M’s and hope that either the Rangers fell apart against the Angels or have won the division and decided to monkey with their rotation to get it set for the playoffs. The A’s are a longshot to win the division but are in a pretty good spot for a wild card, even with their all-rookie rotation.

The Angels just basically need to win out against the Rangers and the Mariners. It could mean that there is meaningful baseball played in Safeco field in October, just not for the Mariners.

My Prediction:
East Winner: Yankees
Central Winner: Tigers
West Winner: Rangers
Wild Card 1: Orioles
Wild Card 2: A’s

Depending on everyone’s final record and how the wild card standings finish, you could actually end up with this nightmare scenario:

Oakland wins the 2nd wild card and flies to Baltimore, arriving sometime in the wee hours of the morning on Thursday

Oakland at Baltimore for the wild card game on Friday if Baltimore ends up with the best wild card record.

New York at Baltimore for the ALDS on Sunday if NY ends up with the best record.

MLB has decided in its infinite wisdom that the team with the best record gets to play the wild card winner (great), but the series format is 2 games at the WC winner and 3 at the Division Winner. So, the Yankees might not know that the need to get on a flight to Oakland until late Friday night. As much as I hate the Yankees, I don’t understand how that makes any sense. It probably negates any advantage they gain from playing the wild card winner. Of course, this gets much more interesting if there is a tie anywhere and we need a playoff to determine the winner.